Disciple-makers can’t minister effectively without supportive relationships. Supportive relationships for disciple-makers can be expressed as a relational triad in which they have a mentor to help them continue to grow, peer relationships to give them support and encouragement, and a younger Christian whose growth they are investing in. Consider the apostle Paul’s own triad. Paul was mentored by several men along his spiritual journey. Initially it was Ananias (Acts 9:10-19). Then it was Barnabas who took Paul under his wing, protected him, and eventually brought him to Antioch to help in the ministry (Acts 9:23-30; Acts 11:25-26).
As Paul grew in maturity and experience, Barnabas shifted from being a mentor to being a peer in ministry and a source of support and encouragement (Acts 13:1-4). Later in Paul’s ministry Silas becomes a significant peer partnering with Paul in ministry (Acts 15:40-41; also see Acts Chapters 16 and 17). These men became a support team as they ministered in Asia Minor.
Of the various individuals Paul mentored, the most familiar are Timothy, Epaphroditus, Titus, and Mark. Mark’s story of apprenticeship reveals the importance of having several mentors along one’s journey. During Paul’s first missionary trip, young Mark doesn’t prove to be a faithful man according to Paul’s standards (Acts 15:34-40). However, Barnabas and Peter step in and invested in Mark for several years resulting in his growth and value to Paul’s later missionary efforts (2 Timothy 4:11).
The method of discipling by means of supportive relationships is a proven New Testament strategy. Since the initial expansion of Christianity, well- meaning people have tried other approaches, resulting in many converts to Christianity. However, the question is this, “have these alternate methods resulted in discipling the nations”?
For a moment, simply reflect on your own personal journey and consider the following questions.
- Who do you have who can speak truth into your life, and from whom you can learn?
- Who among your peers is your greatest supporter and encourager, someone you could make a 911 call to and they would show up?
- Who are you investing in on a personal level, intentionally passing on what you have learned and imparting it into the life of another?
If you don’t have these supportive relationships in your life, start now to develop these network connections. They are indispensable to you as a disciple-maker.